London mayor seeks to reassure private providers over extra £77 for English and math quals

The mayor of London has attempted to reassure private providers they won’t miss out on extra English and maths funding for adult learners.

Sadiq Khan announced last month that the Greater London Authority would increase funding by £77 for every English and maths qualification at level 1 and 2 – at a cost of £2.7 million. The money will come from the adult education budget for 2020/21.

But FE Week subsequently spotted in the draft funding rules that this increase would only be given to “grant funded” providers – typically colleges and not private training providers.

The move would mean that private providers, which win AEB funding through a tender process with the GLA, would be paid less to deliver the same qualification as colleges.

Board papers for a meeting in November stated: “Further work is needed to determine whether these changes [to English and Maths funding] can be made to procured provision or whether they would undermine the integrity of the procurement process, which would open the GLA up to the risk of facing substantial financial sanctions from auditors.”

However, the GLA has told FE Week, following legal advice, they “expect” to be able to amend the funding rules so private providers can also claim the extra £77.

A spokesperson added that the authority expects private providers, like colleges, will be able to access greater support also promised by Khan to train staff to support learners with special educational needs and disabilities.

The decision as to whether to pay private providers the same as colleges will be taken at a board meeting in February.

The GLA will increase college allocations to include the £2.7 million based on the volume of delivery for these qualifications in 2018/19, funded from “unallocated money in 2020/21 budget”.

Mark Dawe, the chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said he expects the GLA to “reflect on the different treatment of grant funded and procured providers before the rules are finalised”.

But, he added, AELP’s concern with the proposals “is that even if independent training providers are entitled to use the uplift, the fact that the funding may come out of their existing contract means that the volume of their delivered AEB provision will go down.

“Additional funding should therefore be made available.”

Funding rates for English and maths qualifications more than doubled in 2012, but have not increased since 2013.

Announcing the funding uplift, Khan said in December: “We’re determined to use all the power and resources at our disposal to help create the workforce of the future – and that means making sure all Londoners have the opportunity to gain skills and make the most of their potential.

“A good level of English and maths is critical to improving someone’s life chances – but for too long funding levels haven’t matched what’s needed to help Londoners improve their basic skills. By increasing funding, providers across the capital can boost participation and achievement.”

More than a quarter of working-aged adults in England have numeracy and/or literacy skills below the level expected of an 11-year old, according to the GLA.

London area director for the Association of Colleges, Mary Vine-Morris, said it is “incredibly helpful” that the mayor “is willing to use the flexibilities afforded him through devolution to begin to address some of the long term problems colleges face”.

The GLA and six mayoral combined authorities were devolved AEB funding for their area from the central government in August.

Khan’s budget is £306 million annually.